How Queerness (and its Intersectional Themes) have Shaped our Experiences as Student Game Developers

Abstract:

Ryan Bobell: For my contribution to the panel I would like to discuss queer forms of leadership and project management using a USC advanced game project, Quiet of the Leaves, as a case study. Quiet is a capstone narrative game project at USC with over 30 active team members spanning multiple universities, states, and fields of study. The leadership is 80%+ queer identified in both sexuality and gender, this has significantly influence both the development of the project and how the team is structured. I’d like to discuss how queer identities have shaped the game and how it has impacted our working relationships with professors, professionals, and other students. I’d also like to impart some of the lessons we have learned from forging our own personal form of project management and I would like to provide some suggestions to educators and game professionals alike for how they might better cultivate and support upcoming queer voices in our industry.

 

Jocelyn Kim: As a gamer throughout my life, I had always held “fun” up to this high standard that I felt all games should fall under. It wasn’t until I came to USC that I realized that my studio art background actually did mesh well with my desire to make games. Thinking about games conceptually and the context in which they were made has really overtaken the way I approach games, and I feel like this movement is ripe for thoughtful academic analysis. These games that didn’t solely focus on entertainment actually had some thought-provoking statements. Ironically, this kind of anti-entertainment content is what legitimizes games as “art” in my eyes.

So, I made a game called waiting for my protag for the Rainbow Jam held at USC for last year’s QGCon Local. waiting for my protag was made in Twine in 10 hours. It was my attempt at gamifying what it’s like to be me, a nervous Asian-American queer girl waiting for a character in popular media that truly resonated with her. I made the game with the desire to subvert peoples’ expectations of what Twine games look like, and to open up my brain for people who aren’t like me to maybe, perhaps, understand how I feel when it comes to Asian-American media representation.

While I have all these ideas in my head that go against the desires of “typical” gamers, I often feel discouraged to enter the game industry. However, in the end I would like to communicate that in the end I have to remind myself that I’m a valuable asset to people and that I have the power to teach and inspire. Most importantly, I have to build myself up and be strong for my fellow queer friends who need people to look out for them, especially in an undergrad/academic setting where people might face many microaggressions. After spending my life being quiet and complicit I finally feel like learning how to make games and why I should make them has been incredibly empowering–it’s finally my time to force the games space to open up and make room for people like me.

 

Heather Robertson: What makes a good horror game and what makes a good queer game are very similar lists. Games about losing power, about struggle, about reckoning with bizarre forces, can be read in both a horrific light and a queer light. This talk will focus on the creation and use of fear in horror games, and how these same techniques can be used for good in queer games. Additionally, this topic will brush on the concept of consent in horror games through content warnings and the like, and how a medium intentionally created to surprise and horrify the player can be seen in a warm light. If there is extra time, this talk may go into the realm of comedy games, discussing how comedy relates back to both horror and queerness. Subversion of expectations is used to extreme effect in all three forms of media, for supremely different purposes. A joke is not a jumpscare is not a queer mechanic, but they all rely on the player believing one thing and then the game delivering another. All three genres of game can be combined; there are funny queer games (Ladykiller in a Bind, My Boyfriend The Space Tyrant), there are scary queer games (ANATOMY, CHYRZA), and there are funny horror games (Spooky’s House of Jumpscares, BeamNG.Drive). Through this panel, I hope to elucidate what makes each of these genres unique, and how each can learn from the others, especially in regards to queer games. Additionally, through this panel, I would like to talk about utilizing the element of surprise in unexpected ways; how changing a mechanic without telling the player may alter their experience, and how the player goes in with expectations to be subverted before a single key is pressed.

 

Bios:

Ryan Bobell makes games, films, Ryan Terence Bobelland a bunch of other random stuff. They are a senior working towards an Interactive Media and Game Design B.A. and a Film & Television Production B.F.A. at the University of Southern California. They just wrapped their thesis film and are currently directing Quiet of the Leaves, a USC Advanced Game Project.

Twitter: @RyanBobell

Website: www.RyanBobell.com

 

Jocelyn is an interactive media & games B.F.A. 3rd year at USC. She has a background in fine arts and animation and has loved games since she was a little kid, starting off with Pokemon and Kirby, then growing to love eSports and competitive games. Conversely, as a queer artist, she loves indie games, personal games, non-games, art-games, whatever you want to call them. She is interested in blurring the line between games and non-games and subverting expectations.

Twitter: @jocelynkimchi

Website: blog.jocelynkim.com

 

Heather Robertson is a bag of meat made out of plant matter. She has created multiple horror games, as well as a number of games exploring LGBT issues. Her best game, “10000 YEARS”, was created in a month-long fugue state where she exclusively dreamed about giant spikes. While she makes horror games, she is admittedly terrified of anything horror-related. She enjoys folk punk and programming in nice dresses. She is also a sophomore game design student at the University of Southern California.

Twitter: @HTHRFLWRS

Website: hthr.itch.io